Ruling party to lead Guyana's first minority gov't

AP News
Posted: Dec 01, 2011 6:44 PM
Ruling party to lead Guyana's first minority gov't

Guyana's ruling party will head a minority government that will not control the South American country's parliament, election officials announced Thursday after three days of counting paper ballots.

Chief Elections Officer Gocool Boodhoo announced that the East Indian-dominated People's Progressive Party led by 61-year-old economist Donald Ramotar won the most seats in Monday's elections but fell short of an absolute majority.

The result is likely to mean turbulent political times for Guyana since opposition parties could control the 65-seat parliament if they are able to work together.

Ramotar's party won 32 seats, four less than it had in the last parliament. The opposition Partnership For National Unity has 26 seats, a gain of four, and the Alliance For Change holds seven, a gain of two.

It is the first minority government since Guyana achieved self-governance from Britain in 1953 and independence in 1966.

Analysts said that will require political compromises in a country largely divided along ethnic lines, between people of Indian and African descent.

The hung parliament "is the best thing to have happened to us as a nation as there are now checks to one race group dominating all the others," said Guyanese political analyst Christopher Ram. "It forces us to share power or could force good governance."

During the campaign, the Partnership For National Unity coalition, led by retired army commander David Granger, accused the previous government of racial discrimination, allying with drug traffickers and turning a blind eye to corruption.

After the results were announced Thursday, about 200 of the coalition's supporters marched from its headquarters toward the legislature chanting, "We want Granger." Another group of opposition demonstrators blew horns as police in riot gear looked on.

Opposition parties have alleged voting irregularities in various districts.

After the results were announced, Granger and Rupert Roopnarine, the Partnership For National Unity's candidate for prime minister, attended a meeting with officials of the People's Progressive Party and the Alliance for Change.

Roopnarine would only say that the various leaders agreed to meet soon with a "fixed agenda, perhaps next week."

Ramotar will be sworn in as president Saturday, replacing Bharrat Jagdeo, who served the two-term maximum set by Guyana's constitution.

Ramotar has pledged to continue Jagdeo's policies by safeguarding vital mining and agricultural sectors and improving education in Guyana, a nation of roughly 780,000 people on South America's northern shoulder bordered by the Caribbean, Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname. Its economy depends on the export of commodities such as gold, bauxite, sugar, rice, shrimp and timber.